Choose your own path in this interesting yet flawed co-op-focused action RPG.
The logline of Moon Hunters is that it is a “personality test RPG,” which is an intriguing concept. The top-down game, which can be played solo or with a party of four, lets you and your friends create characters from one of a few different classes and then craft a story and a personality around the heroes who, when done with their quest, will become a legend in the lore and backstory of this ethereal world. Playthroughs last about an hour, but a procedurally generated design with various unlocks encourages repeat play. The novelty of the hook doesn’t quite hold up, unfortunately, especially in the face of some technical issues and lengthy load times in the Switch version.
The core of Moon Hunters lies in the multiplayer aspect, which evokes light shades of Four Swords as players work together while also carving their own path for their hero. That’s done by different decisions that you make throughout exploring the various levels. Be a benevolent hero if you like, helping out those around you and trying to make peace with enemies, or be a bloodthirsty warrior, slaying all comers. The options are plentiful, and the most tangible effect the varied choices appear to have on the experience are through stat bonuses and unlocks. The unlocks vary from different outfits and classes to new level types and areas. But the decisions also can affect the outcome in weirder and subtler ways. My first, action-oriented run was a very vanilla “defeat enemies” quest, but later more pacifist-oriented runs led me to more peculiar endings that more or less involve seducing bosses. Each completed quest takes you back to a hub that mythologizes your heroes, putting their stories in stars and constellations. The myth-telling aspect of these playthroughs works better than I expected, even when the going gets a little repetitive.
And that’s where Moon Hunters quickly becomes a game I wanted to like more than I actually did. The levels, which are all procedurally generated, are on the whole visually engaging, but aside from the character choices, the moment-to-moment gameplay is focused on wandering and iffy combat. Depending on your class choice, combat can vary between melee and ranged, but otherwise, it’s just a lot of spamming and dodging. Some enemies can be overbearing and tough at times, but after a while, some attacks become clearly dominating and combat becomes simpler and more repetitive.
Mostly thanks to the repetition and middling combat, Moon Hunters is a subpar single-player game. All the neat story-telling ideas in the world can’t rescue it from that. In co-op, Moon Hunters transcends most of its lesser traits. The few that hinder co-op are technical. Load times are almost unbearably long and when the action gets heated, the framerate chugs, even more so with more players.
If you’re looking for a light co-op game on Switch, Moon Hunters is fantastic, and the simple combat and short length are more of a boon than a hindrance. But if you want something deeper and long-lasting, this falls short of that, especially as a single-player-only affair. Still, weaving your own legends makes for a good time, even if it’s short-lived.